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To Boldly Go where Tripods Cannot!
Although camera technology has progressed a lot, there are still certain aspects of photography that have remained unchanged. Even though today's digital cameras come with extremely sensitive sensors the need for a camera support is not negligible. Sometimes use of camera support is required just for the compositional flexibility that it offers. Today we will take a look at a monopod that can go places where a tripod cannot and see if it is worth the investment.
The Manfrotto/Bogen 681B is a professional, aluminum based monopod designed for everyday use. It is a 3 section flip lock model and comes without a head, which has to be purchased separately. The unit also comes with a handy wrist strap and dual 1/4-20"-3/8" camera screw. The unit can be used with popular heads such as the Manfrotto 234 RC or the Manfrotto 486 RC2.
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Build & FeaturesRating
As the 681B is targeted towards professionals or advanced enthusiasts the unit is built like a tank, The anodized aluminum provides the monopod with a solid feel and great usage comfort. The unit does feel a little heavy compared to the cheaper monopods, but again the ruggedness that the strong build provides is a satisfactory trade off. The 2.3 inch camera platform provides a very snug and spacious fit for most camera heads that you would think of connecting to the monopod. The dual 1/4-20"-3/8" camera screw ensures compatibility to kind of attachment that you seek, The foam grip provided on the monopod provides a firm grip, even under slightly moist conditions. The 3 section legs can be adjusted with the provided 45 degree flip lock system. Though the flip lock system may not be as versatile as the twist-open style of some professional monopods, it still does get the job done without much hassle. Once you start using the flip lock system, you will quickly get adjusted the subtleties of using it. The monopod sections work tightly in conjunction with the flip lock system, however with time they might get loose! There is also a tightening clip that is supplied with the monopod which can fix this problem in the long run.
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Ease of Use & StabilityRating
I have been using the unit for over 2 months now under pretty rigorous conditions and the monopod has held up very well. The rubber grip provided on the monopod leg is one of the significant regions of the unit that usually wear out the earliest. In the case of the 681B the rubber grip seems to hold up very well and can very last most photographers a couple of years. Handling a monopod during wet conditions could be a pain due to grip issues, but I've faced no such problems so far. The foam grip on the monopod does work as advertised and the monopod maintains its stability with its maximum load. In fact, the unit is actually capable of holding more than the 26.4-pound maximum load. Also the monopod can extend to a height of upto 63.4-inches, though for a medium built person say 5'5 or 5'9 the monopod does not require to be extended to that height. Using the monopod under muddy conditions and later washing them off did not cause any problems with fluid movement of the leg sections.
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All in all the Manfrotto 681B is a very capable monopod that will complement your camera accessories collection very well and would serve to be a worthy companion in the field. The great Manfrotto workmanship and build quality make the 681B a very worthy buy at $60. I should also mention that there is already a next model out, the 682B selfstanding monopod which comes in around $105. The 682B is designed with a different purpose in mind and cannot provide the dexterity that the 681B does. At the current price the 681B offers good value for the money.